Today in OpenGov: On the road to…


In today's edition, CMS removes a pdf, we launch a new roadmap to informed communities, Saudi lobbyists paid for 500 rooms at President Trump's hotel, using data to fight corruption across Europe, and more. 

washington watch

Screenshot of a slide from the PDF recently removed by CMS, captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine on September 19, 2018.
  • Latest Web Integrity Project report finds removal of documents used by CMS to provide training around healthcare outreach in Latino communities. "Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) removed a PDF titled 'Marketplace Outreach: Best Practices for Outreach to Latino Communities' from its Health Insurance Marketplace website. The PDF was removed in late September 2018, about a month before the November 1st start of Open Enrollment — the period each year when people can sign up for health insurance plans on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Web Integrity Project’s latest report details the removal of this PDF from the Health Insurance Marketplace website, a CMS website that serves as 'the official Marketplace information source' for assisters — individuals or organizations trained to provide free help to consumers and small businesses searching for and enrolling in health coverage." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Judge allows fact-finding in FOIA suit over Hillary Clinton's emails to continue. "The email controversy that dogged Hillary Clinton through much of the 2016 presidential race could well be kicking around through the 2020 contest after a federal judge ordered additional fact-finding into whether Clinton’s use of the private email system was a deliberate effort to thwart the Freedom of Information Act. In a scathing opinion issued Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said that despite FBI, inspector general and congressional investigations into Clinton’s use of a private account for all her email traffic during her four years as secretary of state, the conservative group Judicial Watch should be permitted to demand documents and additional testimony about the practice." (POLITICO)
  • Two Senators want to ban members of Congress from trading stocks. "Recent investing scandals involving members of Congress have prompted two Democrat senators to push a Draconian legislative proposal: a total ban on U.S. lawmakers trading any stocks at all. Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio said the prohibition would prevent lawmakers from abusing their positions for personal gain. In a Thursday statement, they said it would address situations in which politicians have profited from buying and selling stocks in certain industries while at the same time working on legislation that impacts those industries." (Bloomberg)
  • As Michael Bloomberg positions himself for a 2020 presidential bid, political reporters at Bloomberg News worry about their futures. "Reporters at Bloomberg News are on edge after their boss announced that if he chooses to run for president in 2020 — a decision he will have to finalize relatively soon — it could mean the end of the news outlet’s political coverage…The interview quickly caused paranoia within Bloomberg’s news division, according to sources familiar with the matter. The politics team, in particular, has been rankled by what Bloomberg said about how in-house political reporters should handle his potential campaign (not at all)." (BuzzFeed)
  • The Federal Trade Commission's top consumer protection official has over 100 listed corporate conflicts of interest. "The Federal Trade Commission’s top consumer protection official is prohibited from handling the cases involving 120 different companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Uber, according to financial disclosure documents published by Public Citizen today. Andrew Smith, who heads the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, would be in charge of handling investigations into some of the country’s largest companies and any consumer protection violations that may occur. But due to his conflicts of interest, Smith is barred from participating in any investigations involving the companies he previously provided legal services for." (The Verge)

states and cities

The Roadmap to Informed Communities.
  • Sharing Sunlight's Roadmap to Informed Communities. "Last fall, we launched a guide to Tactical Data Engagement (TDE), a four-step process for cities to facilitate opportunities for community use of open data to improve residents’ lives. Since that launch, we’ve piloted the TDE approach with Madison, Glendale (AZ), Austin, and Norfolk, and collected input from several experts in the field working to make city governments more open through open data and civic engagement. That’s why we’re excited to launch our Roadmap to Informed Communities, a new set of tools for local governments to collaborate with community members around important issues using open data. As part of this release, we’ve also updated our Guide to Tactical Data Engagement with clearer concepts and modularity for readers to experiment on their own." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • New report argues for open and transparent financial reporting at the state and local level. "The Data Foundation and Workiva have teamed up to publish Transparent State and Local Financial Reporting: The Case for an Open Data CAFR. The report explores why state and local Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) should be submitted and published as open data. The paper summarizes the steps necessary to create an infrastructure for open data CAFRs, addresses potential objections and challenges, and outlines the impact of currently-pending federal reforms. The report recommends moving away from documents-based CAFR submissions and toward an open data submission." (Data Foundation)
  • Missouri's Secretary of State has launched an investigation into the state's outgoing Attorney General, Senator-elect Josh Hawley. "Missouri’s Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has opened an investigation into how outgoing Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) ran his office before launching his bid for Missouri's Senate seat, according to a letter obtained by The Hill…The investigation reportedly stems from Hawley’s use of outside consultants before launching his bid for Missouri's Senate seat, which he narrowly won last month in a race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)." (The Hill)


The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. 
  • Relaunched project aims to highlight the "The Secret Scandals of the Trump Administration." "We’re excited to announce that MuckRock is relaunching our Trump-focused FOIA project, rebranding it as “The Secret Scandals of the Trump Administration,” where we’ll focus on the administration’s lesser known, but no less dangerous actions, which all too often escape media scrutiny. And true to the spirit of MuckRock, we’re asking our readers to help." (MuckRock)
  • Within months of President Trump's election lobbyists for Saudi Arabia had bought 500 nights worth of hotel rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. "Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months, according to organizers of the trips and documents obtained by The Washington Post…in December 2016, they switched most of their business to the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. In all, the lobbyists spent more than $270,000 to house six groups of visiting veterans at the Trump hotel, which Trump still owns."  (Washington Post)
  • The Senate narrowly confirmed President Trump's nominee to lead the CFPB amid name change controversy. "The Senate on Thursday, in a squeaker vote of 50-49, confirmed White House homeland security specialist Kathy Kraninger to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.The vote came as the agency was defending the move taken earlier this year by acting Director Mick Mulvaney to change the bureau’s name…One of Mulvaney’s legacies, the name change to the government’s newest agency that had spent seven years building its brand, came into question this week when The Hill news outlet obtained an internal bureau document suggesting that the cost to the agency and industry could be as high as $300 million." (Government Executive)
  • The VA's top diversity official was told not to condemn white nationalists by a top Trump appointee in wake of Charlottesville violence, newly released emails show. "A top White House appointee at the Department of Veterans Affairs sought to silence the agency’s chief diversity officer, who — in the aftermath of last year’s racially charged violence in Charlottesville — pushed for a forceful condemnation that was at odds with President Trump’s response, newly disclosed emails show." (Washington Post)

around the world

A new report looks at how open data could be better used to fight corruption in three countries. 
  • Leveraging open data for anti-corruption in Latvia, Sweden, and Finland. "Transparency International Latvia, in collaboration with Open Knowledge Sweden andOpen Knowledge Finland, has published a new study on open data and anti-corruption policies in Latvia, Sweden and Finland, showing that governments in the three countries could do more to leverage the potential of open data for anti-corruption policies and public accountability.  The study comprises an overview report summarising the overall findings and identifying opportunities for knowledge transfer and regional cooperation as well as specific reports assessing to what extent governments in Latvia, Sweden and Finland have implemented internationally agreed-upon open data principles as part of their anti-corruption regime, providing recommendations for further improvement at the national level." (Open Knowledge)
  • New laws limit dissent on the Internet in Russia, with some help from American tech giants. "A 2017 law regulating online activity and anonymous speech went into effect in Russia at the beginning of this month. The law “on information and information technology” stipulates what content search providers are legally allowed to show. Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor, known as the “censorship ministry”) already maintains a registry of banned websites, created in 2012. The list of banned sites range from online gambling to extremist material and information on the use of narcotics. Search engines are now prohibited from showing these sites in their search results." (Global Voices)
  • Documents released by U.K. parliament shed light on Facebook's approach to user data. "Senior Facebook executives allegedly blocked rivals from accessing the company's user data to maintain dominance over vast swathes of the digital world, according to internal Facebook documents published Wednesday. The documents made public by the British parliament also show that Mark Zuckerberg, the company's chief executive, and other senior officials discussed strategies to demand that companies buy digital advertising on the social networking giant, or face being cut off from lucrative user data that had helped these businesses target people on the platform." (POLITICO)


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!